|Drink good bourbon one of two ways: with or without ice.|
When Tracy asked me to write a bourbon guide (the drink is near and dear to my heart), I was torn. On one hand, I see this as an opportunity to recommend some quality brands. But on the other hand, with the outrageous increase in popularity, it makes picking up my favorite bottles in liquor stores that much more difficult. Bourbon has, by the way, become a trend, especially in New York City. I see more and more establishments expanding their vast collections, even in our neighborhood, the not-at-all-trendy Upper West Side. So after hours of soul searching (and some browbeating from my editor) I am giving in.
First off, let me be clear. Good bourbon is to be enjoyed one of two ways: with or without ice. There is no muddling, shaking, stirring, mixing or blending, in my opinion. If this is the way you like to drink bourbon, do not read this article. Go to a bar and order whatever crap they have in the well. So, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get started.
|Bourbon has become a trend in NYC. Even Tracy, who’s not a bourbon drinker, will occasionally have a sip.|
What is bourbon? In short, it has to be 51% distilled from corn. After that, the most typical ingredients are wheat and rye. Wheated bourbons are sweeter, smoother. Rye bourbons are dryer and have more bite to them. We could do a whole lesson on it, but that’s the gist.
In compiling this list, I received help from my friend Jared Friedman, a lifelong lover of bourbon whose collection is extensive. I know this because I have seen it in all its bourbon glory. So much so, that I get a little emotional when thinking about it. Anyway, let’s move on.
First off, let’s start with a less expensive selection. WL Weller Special Reserve is a wheated bourbon that’s smooth and easy to drink, but has a kick that defies its 90 proof distillation. Not to sound over-stuffed, but this guy is on the simple side. For $25 a bottle or so, you can’t beat it. Weller also produces an Antique Original 107 Brand, (107 proof) which is one of my go-to bottles. As a matter of fact, I have one waiting for me right now.
|I have this in bottle waiting for me, right now.|
Next up is one of my all-time favorites. I still can’t believe that I am talking about this, so please indulge me. Buffalo Trace. There. I said it. I have loved this bourbon for years, primarily because it is/was a fantastic bang for your buck. I used to score this jewel for about $20, but now it’s in the $35 range. However, compared to some of the other stuff out there, this bottle is still a good buy. Trace is a rye bourbon, that as earlier stated, has more bite to it. I’ve started to see it more and more in bars (I will not condone the mark up in NYC bars…sheer robbery). So this bourbon can be had, and should be had.
This drink is in the same quality palate as Buffalo Trace. Larceny used to be known as Old Fitzgerald but was rebranded. Jared describes this as nice, easy, and delightful. Again, this one is a wheated bourbon, and as discussed, is sweeter, which would make it a perfect after-dinner drink as opposed to the standard cognac. Be bold and give it a shot.
If you can’t make up your mind, I offer 1792. Somewhere between Larceny and Buffalo Trace lies this little gem. This bourbon is well balanced and should be enjoyed with an ice cube or two, not a full glass of ice, but just enough to let it open up. At about $32, it’s a great value and will again make you look like you’re a bourbon connoisseur, even if you’re not.
Elmer T. Lee
This one is the “if-I-were-stuck-on-a-desert-island” choice. Have also heard this called the gateway drug of bourbons. It shows you what’s possible. There’s just one teeny tiny issue: this bottle is very, very hard to find. A few years ago, I used to buy Elmer T. Lee with ease for about $30. Ha, and double ha. Those days are gone. If you see it now, grab it.
|What would be your bourbon of choice if you were stranded on a desert island?|
We need to have at least one standard bottle, and that selection is Woodford Reserve. I like to call this the “impress your father-in-law bourbon.” WR is a rye bourbon but is friendly to the palate and will satisfy even the most discriminating aficionados.
Lastly, for the hardcore out there, there’s Booker’s –– 120 proof of bad-ass sippin’ whiskey. I will warn you –– this stuff will beat you down but have you begging for more. If you are going to do Booker’s, stretch first and wear armor.
1) We’ll only drink our bourbon straight, or with ice.
2) We’ll sip our bourbon and not shoot it down like a teenager.
3) We’ll donate to the Mike Kaler bourbon fund for under-privileged husbands of bloggers.
|There’s nothing like kickin’ back with a glass of bourbon after a long, hard day in the big city.|
What’s your favorite bourbon?